A new survey seems to show astounding lack of knowledge of HIV transmission among teens

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HIVstructure_Carlos_exeA new online survey of 1,000 teens conducted by Kelton, a communications firm for MAC AIDS Fund, found that one-third of those teens responding failed to identify HIV as a sexually-transmitted infection (STI). A prior survey conducted in 2002 by an unrelated group found that 91 percent of teens were aware of the mode of HIV transmission; if valid, this represents a decline of 24 percent in twelve years.

Other important data discussed in the VOX news item on this survey includes a CDC report documenting a disturbing 132 percent rise in annual HIV diagnoses among male teens and young adults who have sex with men (MSM) between 2001 and 2011. There are approximately 50,000 new HIV cases in the U.S. each year, over half of whom are unaware of their infection. Further, 8 out of 9 of the teens responding did not perceive themselves as at risk for HIV infection, while only 71 percent acknowledged knowing that using a condom helps prevent HIV.

As reported in The Daily Beast, there is little information provided by Kelton in the report regarding the survey methods. Other than age, there was no available information on the level of risky behaviors among the respondents, nor any demographic stratification given.

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this comment: This survey s methodology may well be lacking there is no such thing as a perfect survey, certainly. And the funding group is AIDS/HIV focused. That being said, a few percentage points up or down is not the take-home message here: public health educational outreach that was successful during the height of the AIDS epidemic and for a decade thereafter focusing on safe sex , wear a condom every time, etc., may be losing its hold on the short-attention span generation with us now. More emphasis must be put on these behavioral practices, as well as on getting tested among high-risk groups and being responsible about keeping partners safe as well. While 50,000 new cases is minuscule compared to what might have been absent effective anti-HIV drugs, that number is still far too many for a preventable infection.